Kaohsiung is the second largest city in Taiwan and sometimes overlooked by visitors, who only stick to capital’s surrounding. I am so happy that we decided to visit this city, because it surprised us in such a positive way. The port of Kaohsiung is the largest port in the country and although you would think that port city is very industrial and grey it is the exact opposite. It is rich in culture, full of colours and nothing can beat the fact that there is a beach.
We arrived in the city in the evening, taking THSR from Chiayi to Zouying Station and took the metro to probably the most famous metro station in Taiwan – Formosa Boulevard – home to Dome of Light. It was created by Italian artist Narcissus Quagliata and it commemorates the harrowing birth of Taiwan’s democracy. Dome of Light is huge, 30 meters in diameter and made of 4500 glass panels makes it the largest glass art in world. It is stunning and it was just the beginning.
On our way to Airbnb apartment we found ourselves on Liuhe Tourist Night Market and if I didn’t have one backpack on my back, one in front and smaller one in my hand I would ate everything on my way. The next day my dreams came true and even though we were tired after all day on the sun (we went to Cijin Island, you can read about it in blog post Sunday at Cijin Island), we showered and hit the food stands looking for something delicious to finish our day in style. We came across a stand where women were preparing fresh dumplings in front of you and couldn’t resist. They were so skilled and their fingers were just flying when making dumplings. I don’t think my fingers are capable of moving so fast. We ordered 10 of them and also got soup with it. They were to die for. Freshly made just minutes before they were dipped in boiling water and not much later on our plate with me trying to take a snap before we ate them all. Yummy yummy!
The next day we headed to visit Fo Guang Shan Buddha Museum to learn more about Buddhism and also to see the largest Buddhist temple complex in Taiwan. It did not disappoint. It is huge and you could easily spend the whole day there. We went to the museum, different pagodas, see the exhibitions, walked in the garden, visited the iconic 36 metre tall bronze Great Buddha statue overlooking the whole complex. Everyone we met there was extremely friendly, they showed us how to behave in the Buddhist temple, offered us tea. It is a place of peace and serenity, although it is also very globalized place (you can even find Starbucks there). I’ve read that it is also possible to spend the night in the complex with nuns and monks and joined them on their daily routine. That would be really amazing to experience, but with lack of time you just have to leave some things for the next time.
Back in Kaohsiung we went to find something to eat and found this amazing place hidden among the tall buildings with fresh homemade food. Language barrier was overcome by a bit of Google translate app, showing us what was in the pots and smiling we finally decided that dumplings are the best and went with that. Lets just say it was great decision.
We also visited Lingya Night Market and bought some fruit there for the evening. It is strange how fulfilling is Taiwanese food compared to the size of the portions. We were full after dumpling feast and unfortunately just couldn’t eat anything else at the moment.
Once we reached Central Park it was already getting dark and in the city that only mean one thing: lights!
On our last day we explored architectural sights. My boyfriend is studying architecture, so our travels are also build around visiting some amazing architecture. I planed the whole trip to Taiwan and he gave me the list of the things he wanted to see (rated from must see to maybe not so important) for me to incorporate into this plan and it worked out pretty great. So our first stop was Kaohsiung Main Public Library. Libraries are one of my favourite things to see when traveling, they offer you the insight into life of people, culture, are the perfect place to escape the heat or cold, use wi-fi and usually they are all very beautiful. It is forbidden to take photos inside the libraries in Taiwan, so you will just have to go inside to see it. This was a modern building with the stunning rooftop garden and even more amazing view to Kaohsiung Exhibition Center which is just mind blowing from the outside. In front of the building you will see a large whale sculpture, that seems like it is jumping out of water. It was made by Hsu Tsung Chieh in 2017 and it presents the successful transformation of Kaohsiung City from an industrial city to an ocean capital in the recent years.
Close to both of them is the famous 85 Sky Tower, which is the 85-story skyscraper and with 378 m height it is the tallest building in Kaohsiung and was the tallest building in Taiwan until completion of Taipei 101. It is hard to miss it, not only because it is so tall, but also because of the design. The building has a prong-shaped design incorporating two elevated podiums that support a pagoda-inspired tower. 85 Sky Tower Hotel occupies floors 38 to 70, there is also an observation desk at the 74th floor, some residential space, offices and luxury stores. We didn’t go in, but just one interesting fact about it: there is no 44th floor, because of tetraphobia, which is very common in East Asia (I wonder now if there is 4th and 14th and all the other floors with 4 in the number?).
Another very amazing architectural site in Kaohsiung’s Zouying District is the Guomao Community. It is a military house complex from 1970s and a true gem. Beehive-like apartment units in two buildings shaped like half circle surround the lovely little park and playground on the inside and many cute tea shops and restaurants on the outside. We got some huge ice teas and went into the park to enjoy the shade, beautiful surroundings and rest before the next sight. Even if you are not into architecture and history this place is the most amazing instagramable place ever, but try not to disturb the locals. It is still a home to many families and you should keep that in mind.
Another famous Instagram location in Zouying district is the Lotus Pond. It is an artificial pond filled with lotus flowers (they were not blossoming when we were there, but when they do it must look stunning). Around the lakes are temples, pagodas, pavilions and most famous of them all are Dragon and Tiger Pagodas. In Chinese culture dragon symbolizes power and strength and tiger symbolizes righteousness and harmony. You are supposed to enter the pagodas through dragon’s mouth and get out through tiger’s to get rid of all bad luck and bring some more good luck into your life. Of course we did it as it said, because you shouldn’t mess with ancient knowledge. You can climb all the way to the top of both pagodas and get yet another beautiful view of the lake and the zig-zag bridge that connects the pagodas with the shore.
With another struggle to find a place to eat with English subtitles or at least photos of the food we gave up and just went into one restaurant near the Lotus pond and with a huge help of some boy who tried to communicate with us through Google translate (which doesn’t work well with Chinese symbols) and some nodding and smiling we got ourselves the best ever beef noodle soup in Taiwan. It was simple, with strong flavour, tender meat and yummy noodles. Of course our next stop was Ruifeng Night Market which just started opening so we first got ourselves some dessert at a cafe near and accidentally ordered strong black coffee, even though we said we wanted some-kind-of-berry ice tea. After that we went back into the hustle and bustle of the night market.
The day was not over yet as we went to see Dadong Arts Center. You should plan to see this in the evening because only then it really comes alive with the colourful exterior. Inside is the library, exhibition hall, performance hall and a place to experience some art. It would probably be one of my favourite places to go to if I lived there.
Staying just minutes away from Liuhe Tourist Night Market also had our last dinner there to say goodbye in the proper way – by eating of course.
The next day was our last one in Kaohsiung and we went to see Pier-2 Art Center that just blew our mind. It is vibrant, colourful, street art everywhere, amazing murals, installations. It is a place for all creative minds to come and explore their options, to create and to be inspired. With many designer boutiques around you will find the most beautiful postcards (that we kept for ourselves, because they were too pretty) and other designer souvenirs. We bought our postcards in the shop with cats and dogs ruling the place. So cute! I also discovered my new favourite book store Eslite with another set of beautiful things to buy (some more postcards never hurt anybody, right? and is not like I can just go there anytime).
And with the one last view of the 85 Sky Tower in the distance we said goodbye to this wonderful town that I truly hope to return one day. There is just so much more to explore there and I am sure that it will develop beyond my imagination, especially in the field of culture, art and creative industries.
Have you been to Kaohsiung? What was your favorite spot there?
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